– Do you want to wash your hands? – Hubby asked when we were coming back from the dinner at Girl With The Gris Gris – You keep sniffing them. – No way! I love that smell. – I sniffed once again, just to be sure it’s still there.
The amazing smell of smoke and butter on my hands is long gone now, but the memory of that dinner will last.
In the Kitchen part of Ding Dong Lounge in Chinatown, head chef Chris Weysham serves up a real-deal New Orleans (creole and cajun) cuisine. I’ve never had a chance to try anything like it before and, to be honest, had to educate myself what this type of cuisine means. It all sounded like an interesting mix (cuisine with French roots, influenced by Native America, Germany, England, Spain, Italy, the Caribbean, and Africa) so we decided to give it a go.
Steep climb upstairs took us to a cosy place. It was dimly lit (with a reddish hue which does affect photos, I’m sorry), nice music was playing in the background and it straight away created a nice atmosphere. We were seated in a booth, but there are also small tables available. I would recommend booking a table, it’s gotten quite crowded quickly.
First we’ve ordered drinks, Hubby decided to go with beer, I couldn’t say no to cocktails. The Hurricane ($16, dark and white rum with passionfruit and freshly squeezed orange juice) was a great choice for me – rum-based cocktails lover. It was quite generous with rum, did compliment the food well and helped to relax.
As I said, we were very new to this cuisine, so we asked staff for recommendations (if you don’t feel confident with your choice always ask the staff, they’re very keen to help and they know what’s the house speciality), and most of the dishes we’ve tried on the night were suggested by them.
We kicked off with mixed and matched set of 6 oysters ($16). We had two of each kind: Rockefeller (special spinach, breadcrumbs & parmesan), chargrilled with bacon creole mustard cream sauce and chargrilled with lemon garlic butter. Recently chargrilled oysters became something I really enjoy and in this case I would have trouble picking a winner – they were all different, but also all very good, so I’m glad the “mix and match” option is allowed.
Next up a cup of Gumbo ($8). Comforting chicken and sausage stew served with rice. Surprisingly for us, it had quite a familiar, a bit goulash-like taste, something we would eat during colder months back in Poland. It had a stronger smoky flavour than we are used to, and it is a dish I would have to try a few times to acquire a taste for it.
Hefeweisen Shrimp ($16) was something I had my eye on ever since I first looked at the menu. Hubby and I, we are both big fans of hefeweisen (wheat) beer. We’ve never tried it used in a sauce, so curiosity won in this case – and thank goodness it did! Well cooked prawn served with a sauce that made the dish my absolute favourite of the night. I liked how quickly I stopped being all fancy, left the cutlery on the table and started using my hands instead. I can’t even describe how good it felt to break a piece of the bread, dip it in the sauce, take a bite, eat the prawn using the other hand… it was messy, but very much worth it. The dish was gone within seconds and I don’t think I shared even a small piece with Hubby.
Cochon ($16) on the other hand, was something he took care of very fast. Juicy pulled pork on a jalapeno corn bread with Louisiana BBQ sauce, crackling, pickles, fried onion, and melted cherry tomato gastrique. You can’t go wrong with this kind of mix of textures and flavours.
One more dish to fill us up before the dessert was of course a po-boy – Mama Leah’s Roast Beef ($15), a traditional New Orleans sandwich served with housemade potato chips. Crisp French bread, filled with roast beef and dripping with gravy. Oh my, that thing was good. There is no way you could eat it with cutlery, so I gladly used my hands once again.
For dessert we went for a highly praised by staff New Orleans Bread Pudding ($10). Not overly sweet which often seems to be a case with bread puddings, with a lovely, rich bourbon whiskey sauce and ice cream was a very good way to finish off the night on a high note.
Girl With The Gris Gris
18 Market Lane, Chinatown
Melbourne VIC Australia 3000
We were invited guests of Girl With The Gris Gris for this meal. All opinions, as always, are our own.